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Pretoria - Ntombi, the rhino calf, is a survivor. A couple of weeks ago, the two- month-old white rhino was attacked by poachers and left in a terrible state until her rescue on January 8 by Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) Rhino Orphan Response Project, in partnership with Rhino Orphanage.
She’d tried to return to her dead mother while the poachers were removing her horn. They slashed at Ntombi’s face with a panga and an axe repeatedly to chase her away.
The calf survived the attack but was left with 18 deep lacerations across her face, one that cut right through her horn and sinuses, and another that penetrated her skull.
“My stomach sank when I first saw her,” said EWT’s rhino rehabilitation specialist, Karen Trendler.
But a month’s tender love and care has made all the difference.
“She is an absolute star,” said Trendler, one of a small team working with the calf.
She said the first 56 hours were the most difficult as the calf wanted comfort – rhino calves stay very close to their mothers – but was petrified of humans.
“We are happy to report that Ntombi has healed far beyond expectations. In less than a month, she has gone from being a weak, traumatised rhino calf with severe head injuries and lacerations to a healthy, happy and active rhino,” said Trendler.
For the first three weeks of her stay, Ntombi had round-the-clock nursing which has eased now though she still gets night feeds.
“She has moments of panic, but most of the time, she is content. She loves water and rushes to the dam at every opportunity where she will gleefully spend an hour or two swimming,” said Trendler.
“The wounds have healed exceptionally well. One cannot believe that this is the same calf that we rescued. Ntombi’s recovery is undoubtedly a symbol of hope for the rhino-poaching crisis. With concerted, collaborative effort, we can and will turn the tide,” said Trendler.
The Rhino Orphan Response Project provides an integrated emergency response and support network for rhino calves injured, orphaned and traumatised as a result of poaching events.
The project ensures the calves are recovered swiftly, stabilised and treated and, if necessary, placed in suitable facilities with professional staff who are trained to provide the right care and comfort.
This approach by individuals with the necessary expertise means the calves have a much better chance of surviving and being rehabilitated back into the wild.
As for Ntombi, she will stay at the centre for another two to three years before being released at a facility nearby. “We want to be able to keep an eye on her and make sure her ordeal has no long-term impact,” said Trendler. - Pretoria News